As the poet might have said it

José Rubén de León presents his critically acclaimed play in Lorca's native language

It happened in Kentucky. José Rubén de León, a local playwright, performer, and vocalist, took his one-man show LORCA to Murray State University. He performed the piece, about the life and work of Spain's beloved and controversial poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca, to an audience of language and humanities students. After the performance, a student came up to him. "Yo soy Mexicano," the student said, and then asked why de León didn't present LORCA in Spanish.

And so, on September 8, at Jump-Start Theatre, he'll debut the Spanish version, which he's finding surprisingly affecting. "Spanish was my first language. In Spanish it really resonates, knowing that this is his language," de León says.

The original English-language version premiered last October at the Little Carver as the centerpiece of a Lorca festival. For de León, it was the culmination of years of writing, months of workshops and readings, and the advice and insight of friends and colleagues. Afterward, he offered the show to the Laredo Little Theatre, the place where his theatrical career began 30 years ago as a high school freshman, and where de León served as artistic director from 1982-87. The three-day run raised money for the theater.

(English version)
8pm Sat-Sun, Sep 4-5
(Spanish version)
8pm Fri-Sat, Sep 10-11
$12 adult; $9 student, senior

Lorca Student Workshop
(English version)
8pm Wed-Thu, Sep 1-2
(Spanish version)
8pm Wed-Thu, Sep 8-9

Jump-Start Theatre
108 Blue Star
From Laredo he went on to the Bluegrass State, returning with a new mission - to create a Spanish version of the show. Mary Evans came back on board to direct it, having directed the original. Harry Babbit, a retired Spanish professor whom de León had met during the Lorca festival, wrote the translation. "I was thrilled," says de León. "It was so beautiful. He kept the poetic feel of the piece."

Aside from the language, very little has changed as de León prepares to revive, almost a year later, his version of Lorca's last days. He has incorporated one or two suggestions, however, such as a rephrasing suggested by a professor who saw the show in Laredo.

"He actually wrote me a long e-mail," recalls de León. "He said that it was very unpoetic for Lorca to have referred to himself as a homosexual because in Spain 1936 he wouldn't have used that word. He suggested 'I'm a man who loves men.'"

"I think this show is something that a whole bunch of people have created with me and I feel very connected to everyone that went to those workshops and presentations, who gave feedback," he says. "And, of course, if Lorca hadn't lived and written I wouldn't be doing this so I'm indebted to him. The material is just so beautiful in both languages." •

By Laurie Dietrich


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